COVID-19 and Unmet Needs:
SARS-CoV-2 is a zoonotic strain of coronavirus that was first detected in human populations in the Chinese province of Hubei in late 2019. The spread of infection has since been driven by human-to-human transmission resulting in the 2020-2021 pandemic.
As a result of unprecedented public and private sector initiatives, as well as the advent of mRNA and viral vector technologies, new vaccines against COVID-19 disease received regulatory clearance in multiple countries in record time. Still, a multi-year track record of safety and efficacy of these new platforms has yet to be established with vulnerable populations, especially those most directly impacted by the current pandemic – the elderly. Additionally, mRNA vaccines require expensive supply chain support, and there may be certain limitations to the viral vector-based products. Coupled with new mutations of the SARS-CoV-2 virus identified in South Africa and the UK for which the new vaccines may or may not provide robust protection, there is a need for ongoing research. Traditional subunit vaccines or virus-like particle alternatives may have a role in managing the pandemic, particularly constructs that can be cost-effectively designed, prototyped, and mass produced in rapid fashion.1